Greeting early morning worshippers at St. Gabriel's Catholic Chuch in Charlotte on Sunday, Rev. Andre Mangango noticed the strangers with dark glasses and ear phones.
Then he realized the reason they were there: A Secret Service contingent escorting Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's newly named running mate. Ryan went to the south Charlotte church before he and Romney headed off by bus for rallies in Mooresville and High Point. He did so without taking the typical press pool and without notifying any media following the campaign.
In a blog post this afternoon, diosesan spokesman David Hains quoted Mangango:
"He walked up to me and said, 'I am Representative Paul Ryan and this is my son.' I welcomed him to the church, congratulated him on being chosen and told him that we would be praying for him."
Ryan is the first Catholic on GOP ticket since William Miller in 1964. According to the National Journal, his selection also marks the first time that a presidential ticket will not include at least one Protestant. With Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, it also guarantees the first vice presidential debate between two Catholics.
St. Gabe's was still buzzing about the appearance at the 10:45 mass. Parishioner Simon Tsai was in the congregation when the priest anounced that the early service had a surprise visitor.
"The whole parish just applauded sponstaneously," Tsai recalled. "You can tell the enthusiasm.”
Tsai, a businessman, was impressed himself. "It surprises me that he actually when to mass, especially when it's not a photo op," he said. "It's not just for show.”
--Jim Morrill, Observer staff writer